When you’re taking a history from a patient in pain, it can be difficult ask the right questions at the right time at first. Your patient will be telling you all sorts about how they have ended up in your chair, some will be relevant, some will not, but how can you extract the most relevant details in the shortest amount of time?
Like many things, the more you do, the better you become. To begin with, it’s always useful to have a system and to stick to it. Before long, it’ll become second nature!
Students work well with acronyms, and there are many in dentistry! The one we were taught for the pain history is SOCRATES.
- Where is the pain? Localise to at least a quadrant
- When did the pain start? Is it getting better or worse?
- Ask your patient to describe the pain, is it dull, aching? Or sharp, stabbing, tingling or burning
- Does the pain radiate to any other part of the head and neck?
- Any other signs and symptoms associated with the pain
- When is the pain the worst? Morning, night or is it continuous?
- What sets the pain off? Does anything make it better? Painkillers help?
- How severe is the pain, perhaps ask your patient to put it on a scale from 1-10, where 10 is most painful.
Remember to ask open questions to your patients where your patient can expand for themselves, i.e. “can you describe the pain?” rather than closed questions, “Is it sharp?”, where they can only answer yes or no.
Do you have other ways of doing this? Feel free to contribute in the comments below!!